Who Has the Real Power?

The time was just after World War II. Communism had descended like a dark shadow over most of Eastern Europe. A young Rumanian student named Joseph Tson was about to discover who had the real power—the iron-fisted communist dictators or the gentle-hearted men and women of God. One day in class, the subject of religion came up. Joseph raised his hand and asked his professor whether he believed the Bible. The professor reacted angrily. "We no longer need the old fables," he shot back at the young man. "You just watch. Within a generation, the church will die out." Joseph recoiled at the man's vehemence. But he reminded himself that anger can mean someone feels threatened. Could it be that talk of religion made his atheist professor feel threatened? Well, it should, Joseph thought. After all, what was it Jesus said about the church in Matthew 16? "On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." Those are fighting words, Joseph thought. What's more, they promise that the church will ultimately win the fight. After class, as Joseph stuffed his books into his briefcase, a paraphrase of Jesus' words ran through his mind. In Eastern Europe I will build My church, he seemed to hear God saying, and Communism will not prevail against it. Suddenly Joseph realized God was challenging him personally. The spiritual battle in his country was between the church and communism—and he must choose which side he was on. Then and there, Joseph resolved that he would be on God's side. Tson went on to study theology and became pastor of the largest Baptist congregation in Eastern Europe. Over the years, he was arrested and beaten for his faith many times. But he continued to teach and preach the Gospel. In 1981, Pastor Tson was exiled and came to the United States, where he translated Christian books into Rumanian to smuggle back home. He also worked with Radio Free Europe, encouraging Christians to be ready. Ready for what? Tson was convinced that the church would one day prevail against communism, just as God had promised. And he lived to see his faith vindicated in the sudden downfall of Romania's communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. The media credits Gorbachev and reformers in the Soviet Union with ending 45 years of communism in Eastern Europe. Not so. The spark of that revolution was ignited years earlier in the heart of young Joseph Tson, and hundreds of others like him. Communism fell because the people of God believed steadfastly that it was God who establishes His church, and that there is no power that can stand against it. It's a story that ought to give us Westerners the confidence we need to stand against our own culture. That's why I've included Pastor Tson's story in my book, The Body. If you call us at BreakPoint, we'll tell you how to order it. The attacks on the church in the West are more subtle than the official atheism embraced by communism. But they are every bit as real.


Chuck Colson


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